Home > Ask Our Experts > What Distance Between Holes When I Aerate Lawn?

What Distance Between Holes When I Aerate Lawn?

By: Dr Gareth Evans - Updated: 29 Sep 2012 | comments*Discuss
Aeration Compacted Compaction Clay


I intend to aerate my lawn using a 'hollow tine' tool, but would like advice on the distance between holes etc. We live on an area that has been reclaimed from use as a quarry, and the lawn is no more than 12 inches above a compacted layer of clay. The Lawn was laid about a year ago and appears to be very wet, though not waterlogged.

(R.S, 13 March 2009)


Yours is an interesting question – principally because it raises a whole lot of other issues beyond simply the distance between the holes!

You don’t say what type of soil your garden has above the clay layer and this is important in terms of your choice of aerating tool. Hollow tine aerators are great for heavy soils – they pull a core of soil out with them, which leaves good, wide channels for air to circulate – but they shouldn’t be used on sandy soils.

Assuming that this is the appropriate tool for your type of ground, the usual advice would be to make the “spiked” rows the same distance apart as the tines are from each other, to produce an even pattern of holes across the surface. I’m not clear from your question whether you intend doing the whole lawn – or, indeed, how big a patch of grass we’re talking about – but in general terms, you’d normally only expect to aerate actual problem areas, rather than the whole lawn, unless it’s a very small one.

Aerate Or Drain?

It’s difficult to be sure without seeing your site, but I’m tempted to ask why you’re thinking of aerating in the first place. Aeration is generally used to break the compacted layer that typically forms in the top three inches or so of a lawn when soil particles have been squeezed together – typically after very heavy use of the lawn, or the passage of time. Your lawn is only a year or so old – which makes this kind of natural near-surface compaction very unlikely.

What worries me about the situation you describe is that with compacted clay so near to the surface, I’m not at all sure that aeration is going to make any difference. As I said before, it’s always difficult to make too strong a diagnosis without actually being able to see things for yourself, but it seems to me that there’s a very good case for making a serious improvement to the drainage – or else it sounds like you’re always going to run the risk of having a fairly boggy lawn, with all the problems that entails.

Laying full drainage, usually a series of clay pipes in gravel filled trenches, is not often worth the cost and upheaval, but there’s pretty broad agreement that it’s the best approach for sites with impermeable clay subsoil – and often the only real hope of success. I honestly think that before you spend too much time and money on aerating or trying any other “surface” remedy, you’d probably be best advised to get a local land drainage adviser in to have a first-hand look at the problem.

I’m sorry to be the bearer of bad news, but if my suspicions are correct and you do get the right professional help at this point to sort out the drainage, you should end up with a lawn to be proud of – and be able to enjoy it for years to come. Good luck!

You might also like...
Share Your Story, Join the Discussion or Seek Advice..
Why not be the first to leave a comment for discussion, ask for advice or share your story...

If you'd like to ask a question one of our experts (workload permitting) or a helpful reader hopefully can help you... We also love comments and interesting stories

(never shown)
(never shown)
(never shown)
(never shown)
Enter word:
Latest Comments
  • Mike
    Re: Will New Turf Grow Successfully Over an Old Turf Lawn?
    I have a small lawn that slopes down to the bottom of the garden to some Railway Sleepers, I'm…
    11 April 2019
  • Ren
    Re: Problems With a New Lawn
    Hi moved into a new build last June, they turfed our garden but the lawn was dead when layed so was turfed again in October but by…
    5 March 2019
  • MacO
    Re: Above Ground & Underground Lawn Pests
    @Cherry Court - it sounds very strange. Are there any drainage pipes in that area which could be causing the…
    21 September 2018
  • Cherry Court
    Re: Above Ground & Underground Lawn Pests
    Hello We have had a problem with a corner of the lawn, which was developed about 14 months ago using compost and…
    20 September 2018
  • arthur
    Re: Problems With a New Lawn
    AS bove i had a new turfed lawn put down early june, before it was laid the ground was rotavated,raked, leveled,heeled in,good quality…
    3 March 2018
  • Ady
    Re: Types of Grass
    @Freshman - You need a drought-tolerant grass. Buffalograss is native to the midwest-America and is very hardy - but still needs 1/4" of water per…
    18 December 2017
  • Freshman
    Re: Types of Grass
    Hi Can you please advise me for the best grass seed to grow in Africa Ghana Thanks
    15 December 2017
  • Molly
    Re: Questionnaire: Are You Clued-up on Common Lawn Problems?
    Previous neighbours have emptied there water butts into our garden through a hidden pile, then…
    5 October 2017
  • David in Devon
    Re: Adjusting Your Soil's PH
    On the ph advice on lawns, you state that rhododendrons flourish in alkaline soil. Really? If so, you need to inform RHS that they are…
    26 September 2017
  • Col455
    Re: FAQ: Lawn Mowers
    @graham - Have you thought of getting someone like Green Thumb in to treat your lawn. They can spot all the diseases etc and give you the best…
    19 September 2017